Recent comments

  • Q & A — The Grand Forks Water Meter Plan   28 weeks 1 day ago

    Everyone needs to stand together on this and say NO.  If EVERYONE does this, then maybe, just maybe we will be able to stop this nonsense.

  • Court injunction gives hope to those who need medicinal weed   28 weeks 3 days ago

    It is because Canada is a backwards country. Canada is being run by the US equivalent of Sarah Palin and American Tea Party. The only more right wing country in the world is now Israel. Canada is making pot laws more harsh while the rest of the world moves the opposite direction. It's been a decade since Portugal legalized all drugs and the US is legalizing pot. Meanwhile backwards moving Canada makes minimum sentences and makes it harder to get medicinal pot. This country is going downhill and I am embarrassed to be a Canadian today.

  • Court injunction gives hope to those who need medicinal weed   28 weeks 3 days ago

    I think everyone knows the Harper Government only want to make this a money grab for corporations to bilk people out of their money. Why is it that Canada is so backward when the Americans are finally opening up a reality of legalization and decriminalization? Once again we see the Government is ignoring the same ones that allowed them to rule (unjustly). The only time voters get a say in anyhing is when voting (maybe?)

  • SPOTLIGHT FILMS: The Crash Reel   28 weeks 6 days ago

    Thanks for highlighting this. I have to commend Maureen and Marius of the Gem Theatre for dealing with the mix-up with such grace. They are awesome community supporters! Hope to see lots of folks out for the re-screening, it is a great documentary.

  • CONTEST: April 2014 -- Wildways Bike Tune-up   28 weeks 6 days ago

    I would love to win a bike tune-up and then start riding the trail from Grand Forks to Christina Lake.

  • SPOTLIGHT FILMS: The Crash Reel   28 weeks 6 days ago

    There was a miscommunication with the screening of this film. The show will be at GEM theatre on Tuesday, April 8th and those that showed up to the previous screening will get a medium popcorn for their trouble. 

  • GF council in hot water at regular meeting   28 weeks 6 days ago

    An update on the petition... 

    At the last council meeting, a petition was presented to council with almost 800 signatures and the presenters again asked for a referendum and more town hall meetings. The petitioners feel that the number of signatures is significant because there were 1179 voters in the last municipal election and over 3,000 people are estimated to be eligible voters. That means over half of the voters and 25% of the eligible voters put their names on the petition. 

  • CONTEST: March 2014 -- Up to $200 from Your Dollar Store with More   28 weeks 6 days ago

    Congratulations! You're the winner -- random number generator says ... FOUR. I'll send you a message with more details. 

  • COMMENT: Do our political values match our personal ones?   29 weeks 3 days ago

    Great analysis of the situation, Crickets. However, I do part company with you when you say the only solution would be to elect more honest people...because that's clearly not going to happen and is, therefore, clearly no solution.  So then what?

    More and more it seems clear to me that A) we don't live in a functional democracy and B) it would be child's play to write up a plan for a true democracy but C) the current structure won't allow that better plan to be implemented.

    Such a plan would, first off, remove money from governance. Elected officials would be seconded from their jobs like jurors--paid a living wage for four years and then sent back to their old lives with a hearty thanks and no hope of patronage, lucrative lobbying posts, pensions, etc. That single aspect of a sane plan alone is enough to guarantee that it will never happen.

    So what else? One option is the violent overthrow of the current system but I can't advocate that; neither can I persuade myself that such a change would result in a better world, given the many tragic examples of such revolutions in the past.

    Is it really a matter of either the corrupt status quo or a violent revolution? Or is there a third options--for some sort of non-violent revolution?

    The stakes are high in so many ways--environmentally, economically, and in terms of geo-political stability--that we can't afford pipe dreams like 'if only things some how got better'. Time, I'm sure we can all agree, is running out on our current world one way or another. This is serious stuff. I write of children in this comment piece--and shudder to think what sort of world we're on the verge of leaving to the next generation.

    Any thoughts?

  • COMMENT: Do our political values match our personal ones?   29 weeks 4 days ago

    In his 1993 book “La fin de la démocratie” French diplomat Jean-Marie Guéhenno asked: “Who would think to overturn a government because the public school or hospital in their town no longer gives satisfaction?”

    Guéhenno does not provide an answer, but he does expand on the intricacy of the problem: “It is well known that the central administration cannot do anything, even if it is just as plain that it is the source of funds. No one trusts a national official to manage equitably the even distribution of resources, let alone administer public services directly. Concern for efficient management makes an entity that is administered, financed, and controlled at the local level more attractive”, he goes on to suggest that “one identifies only with what one can control, and the modern nation-state, in its day-to-day management seems uncontrollable, and hence irresponsible.”

    Central provincial control over education in British Columbia is all but absolute. The role of school boards is at best an administrative one. Management is centralized, administration is delegated. The election of school board trustees is a democratic token.

    I curse the guy (or was it a gal?) who first coined the terms “taxpayer” and “taxpayers’ dollars”. They poison political discourse. The terms serve to direct the focus of political debate on the value of money. A democratic polity's focus should be on the common good. With taxes, unlike private commerce between buyers and sellers, there is no direct link to the exchange of money for goods and services. Who pays how much, and who stands to benefit from the state’s spending, nothing at all to do with each other. By limiting the citizens' role to that of taxpayers we place the emphasis of our politics on taxes at the expense of the common good. By allowing ourselves to be seen and treated as taxpayers we allow politics we accept the premise that money is society's principal value, the only value worthy of consideration.

    The school board's rationale for the closure of Rossland’s high school reminds me of the guy who promoted the triangular wheel as an improvement over the square wheel because it eliminates one bump. 

  • COMMENT: Do our political values match our personal ones?   29 weeks 4 days ago

    I completely agree with your assessment. I find the lack of "love" in politics stems exactly from the type of person the political system breeds to be successful; cunning, dispassionate, charming, back-room-deal-making power mongers who know how to play a particular game.

    People with passion and purpose do not do well in this system, because the wheels of justice grind slowly and things are only done to curry favour and votes, and not because they are the right thing to do. The passionate lose patience, likely with the idiocy of the system as well as the lack of integrity or caring around them.

    I am trying to enact some important, ethical, legal amendments and was told by an Ottawa lobbyist of 25 years to not waste my time. "No MP will help you because your cause is just," he says to me, "Because to gain support they need to win the allegiance of many, many party members, which means they will owe many, many favours. If your Bill or idea doesn't immediately benefit them finanically or politically, nobody is going to waste their time - because changing laws is extremely time consuming and difficult, and they get paid no matter how much time they put in."

    That's our system. The only way this will change is to elect leaders who have not ground their way through the machine to become robotic reflections of their former selves. This is why I have so much respect for the small, small handful of MPs, MLAs and Senators who do seem to actually give a damn and fight the good fight, because it must be exhausting.

  • UPDATE: Perry Ridge logging protestors have change of heart   29 weeks 5 days ago

    No one from the Sinixt First Nation has said anything about stopping the harvesting of trees in a sustainable manner. There are many more uses in a forest than that of logging. What many people are saying is that, it is far overdue to relook the way logging occurs and clearcut logging through creeks and wetlands which many directly use for drinking water is not the way.

    Perry Ridge has 32 creeks which are crucial to cleaning up the Slocan River after last year's 35,000 litre A-1 Jet fuel spill at Lemon Creek. One would think that land management planning would change to reflect this environmental disaster that took place in the Slocan Valley but NO.

    Should not conservation, heritage, archeology be set up as non profit third parties and not part of the Ministry of Forest Lands and Natural Resource Operations which primarily handles the needs of industry to avoid being in conflicts of interests. This is what happened to fisheries and that is why the fish rehabilitation and hatcheries now operate outside of government as a third party called the Fresh Water Fisheries Society of British Columbia.

    Dennis Zarelli Jr.*, Sinixt Communications Liaison

    *Who lives at the base of Perry Ridge and is not a professional protestor but a man with good conscience and reason and has reason to believe the true interest on Perry Ridge is that of graphite mining not forestry.

     

  • UPDATE: Perry Ridge logging protestors have change of heart   29 weeks 5 days ago

    Please leave the legalese to people who are qualified as it is clear that this commentor and his supporters have not a clue about law! Sinixt people have no Aboriginal rights but are most definitely an indigenous group within Canada and have basic human rights according to Canada's Crimes against humanity and War crimes Act and the International Bill of Human Rights.

    After 20 years of court cases and $300,000 plus in legal expenses not a singal piece of evidence has been reviewed by any court. The last case being an Appeal of a Judicial Review was quashed by the Crown because BCTS and the MFLNRO said that there where no more development plans on Perry Ridge. A month later BCTS was out flagging areas of interests and planning road expansions.

    You be the judge.

    Dennis Zarelli Jr., who by the way does not get paid for my work with the Sinixt First Nation and anyone including any media outlet who tries to label me a professional protestor is liable for slander.

  • When it Comes to Political Ideas, How Big is ‘Big’?   29 weeks 6 days ago

    In much of your column you present arguments which, to a good part at least, can be traced back to our first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting system. and yet, in the opening paragraphs you suggest that FPTP is not our political system's greatest flaw.

    First past the post works just fine for horse races, but a democracy is not a horse race. The purpose of a democratic election is not to reward one political party with the prize of unilateral legislative and executive powers, it is to form an assembly reflecting the citizenry's multiple views and beliefs for the purpose of working out compromise solutions - finding ways for us all to get along, respect each other, and accept reasonable (if not perfect) solutions to our problems and challenges.

    The correct definition of our voting system is purality-majority. The majority it produces is an illusion. When one political party wins a majority on the basis of 40 percent of ballots cast, what it represents is the largest minority. The citizenry's majority, made up of the lesser minorities, is left out in the cold.

    The defects in our voting system stand out when we compare the 1963 and 2011 federal elections.

    1963, 79.2% voter turnout, Liberal Party 41.52% = minority government;

    2011, 61.1% voter turnout, Conservative Party 39.62% = majority government.

    I consider a system that can deliver a minority parliament on the strength of 41% and a majority parliament on the strength of 39% to be problematic.  As the name implies, the parliamentary seats a proportional representation voting system allocates to political parties is proportional to their popular support.

    The reason our political parties fail so miserably in developing and pursuing what you refer to as good ideas is that our voting system does not focus on ideas, its focus is on the person of the leader. Our voting system assumes: a) that only one party at a time can have good ideas, and b) that a single party can have the je ne sais quoi to know all the questions and to have all the answers to all the questions,

    The only way a political party can not just advance, but also implement a good idea is to have the power to do so. It is so because it is far easier to find fault with a good idea, to throw rocks at it and shoot it down, than it is to convince voters that it will work, and that early flaws in the implementation (Obama care) can and will be worked out.

     A bold idea offers an easy target for those who oppose it. A party needs the support of the largest minority to gain the power necessary to implement a bold idea. Holding back bold ideas and catering to the narrow self-interest (cut taxes) can reward a political party with the power needed to implement its bold ideas (Fair Elections Act). A party would never dare to advocate such ideas prior to or during an election.

    So what is our situation today? Our voting system leaves us with little more than hoping that we may some day be blessed with a political party whose flamboyant leader will elevate it to the status of largest minority and that, notwithstanding the bland narrow self-interest policies advocated during the election campaign, that flamboyant leader will surprise us all with good ideas after the election. Hmm, not exactly what democracy's philosophy promises, is it,  

    Three out of four European countries have proportional representation. Yes, that number includes economic basket cases such as Greece and Spain. But it also includes Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands and many others where ideas on education, health care, the economy, environment and social stability - what to do and how to do it - are debated at great lenth during and after election campaigns. In those countries, after the election, the focus of the debate among those elected to be responsible to sort it all out shifts to finding a compromise a majority - that is more than 50% - can accept and live with. In the mean time, back home here in Canada, our voting system favours a debate about which of the party leaders has the je ne sais quoi to be Prime Minister. 

  • Second area community opts out of Trail recreation program   30 weeks 2 days ago

    You are right about the endless feuding. Money does play a role, although other matters, call them political, can have deeper roots.

    In the particular case of Rossland and Trail money is at the root of much discord because the property tax is the principle source of discretionary municipal revenue, Trail's non-residential taxable assessment as a share of total taxable assessment is way above the provincial average, Rossland misses the average too, but on the other side. In addition, because of topography and altitude, Rossland's per capita costs are higher than Trail's, the most extreme example being winter road maintenance.

    Regionalizing services was pursued as one means by which to equalize access to the non-residential taxable assessment. For a service such as fire it worked reasonably well for two reasons:

    a) the service was fully regionalized, meaning that the RDKB was put in charge of all aspects of the service, leaving both Rossland and Trail (and the villages) as clients of the RDKB.

    b) what mattered was to have a service capable to respond to an emergency. Where the RDKB placed what was of no concern.

    Regional recreation was an utter failure for the simple reason that, unless the fire service, recreation was set up as a hybrid of the worst kind. The RDKB was responsible for the money but not service delivery, and municipalities were responsible for service delivery without control over the money.

    The sewer service, because of the regional district voting structure established by the province, provided Trail with a majority of the votes, able to impose its will on the other two partners.

    One option that was never pursued seriously was the allocation of the industrial taxable assessement on a per capita basis in the region. Trail would have fought an attempt to do so, of course, and the province was not interested, fearing what may come out of the woodwork if doing so were to be regarded as a precedent by other municipalities.

    Whether the mess and the ongoing fights are a price worth paying to avoid the allocation of industrial assessment, who is to tell. 

  • Second area community opts out of Trail recreation program   30 weeks 2 days ago

    The alternative methods of generating and sharing revenue could create the opportunity to not be so dependent on the traditional property tax. We still have to make more progress in order to not be so dependant.  That’s certainly a topic for another discussion.

    My frustration is the never ending battles to develop simple agreements for sharing local services. This isn’t new in any way. There was a newspaper article about Rossland and Trail in disagreement about services. This newspaper article was from 1927. The disagreements likely go back even further. They always contain fear mongering about losing local identities or public services or not getting a fair deal. We are still so very dependent on each other, regardless of the fear mongering. Sounds like a married couple in a home and have common interests, yet they can’t agree on anything and neither can move away.

    Local Governments could likely see even better provincial support of major projects if they could only see strong agreements in place between smaller communities that are so dependent on each other.

  • Second area community opts out of Trail recreation program   30 weeks 2 days ago

    John, have a look at this. You may find some information of interest with relevance to local conditions as it concerns financing. Keep in mind that municipalities, district municipalities, regional districts, towns or cities, they are all local governments. As it concerns financial matters, there is no distinction among the various sub-groups.

    http://www.ubcm.ca/assets/Resolutions~and~Policy/Policy/Finance/LocalGovernmentFinance_Report_Web_Final.pdf

  • Second area community opts out of Trail recreation program   30 weeks 2 days ago

    The SD20 system is a good example of where a regional district function might be considered as too large. Not everyone agrees on same terms for fair representation. A functioning district municipality could likely incorporate the RDKB Areas A and B, those areas doesn’t expand as far as Castlegar.  Is not having a senior high school in Rossland really that bad? For this discussion, try to ignore the lack of long term planning by the SD20 when constructing a new school in Trail that is too small. BTW, snow removal is a component of public safety. I’ve already seen reductions. The effects are barely noticeable.  

    Communities can still support and manage facilities on their own. However, the escalating cost of maintenance, repairs, and replacement for the aging facilities isn’t going to slow down. The wants and needs of society today seem to be compared to the luxuries of government spending seen during the baby boomer generation. No one is claiming to have a crystal ball here, but these luxuries might be lost when the small cities can’t borrow money using this localized taxation approach. Or we just remain status quo and pass the increasing debt onto the next generation.

  • CONTEST: March 2014 -- Up to $200 from Your Dollar Store with More   30 weeks 2 days ago

    Thanks for the opportunity to win this shopping spree!

     

  • Second area community opts out of Trail recreation program   30 weeks 3 days ago

    Thanks Andre,

    I appreciate the reading tips. Both books sound informative. The changing gut feelings must be unique in every community. I can go to a library to further investigate. Cheers.

  • Second area community opts out of Trail recreation program   30 weeks 3 days ago

    SD20 represents our larger region, with two board members representing Castlegar, two representing Trail, two representing the Beaver Valley, one (who actually lives in Trail) representing Warfield and two RDKB electoral areas, one representing two RDCK electoral areas, and one representing Rossland. I definitely don't see this regional board reducing any political problems between neighbouring commitees. If anything, it has exacerbated them.

    If this is an example of how an amalgamated government would work for the "Greater Trail" region, I'm not remotely interested. I suspect Rossland would fight a losing battle to keep amenities such as the library, pool, arena, museum, and having our streets snowploughed nearly as well as they currently are, when other communites could have more say in these decisions than we do.

  • Second area community opts out of Trail recreation program   30 weeks 3 days ago

    Your points are valid, John. I recommend a couple of books worth the effort to read for you, and others who may be interested.

    "Merger Mania: The Assault On Local Government" by Andrew Sancton. Sancton is a Rhodes scholar with a philosophy in politics doctorate. The book is published by McGill-Queen's University Press. the book examines shifts in moods and trends in amalgamations and consolidations in the US, Britain, New Zealand, Australia, and several Canadian provincees over the past century. It is well worth reading and helps the reader ask the right questions.

    The other book is "Guide to Good Municipal Governance" by C. Richard Tindal and Susan Nobes Tindal. Richard was prof at several colleges and universities, Susan is a lawyer, and together they established Tindal Consulting Limited, a local government and management consulting firm. The book was published by Municipal World in St. Thomas, Ontario.

    Unlike Sancton's, this book does not deal with amalgamation specifically. Its nine chapters are:

    #1 Introduction to Municipal Governance

    #2 Be Strategic and Selective

    #3 Align Organization with Priorities

    #4 Measure Results, Reward Performance

    #5 Pursue Public Involvement

    #6 Partner Where Possible

    #7 Develop and Live by Organizational Values

    #8 Council-Staff Protocol

    #9 Keys to Good Governance.

    You will not find these books in the local book store, but you should be able to get them through the library.

    You can float along on gut feelings and assumptions for quite a while, but if that is the basis on which you govern a municipality, the day will come when the gut don't feel so good any more. Many, many more books have been written on the subject of local governance by people who do know more about the subject than tired old taxpayer homilies.

    Reading these two would be a good start, and may encourage you to keep looking for more.

     

  • Second area community opts out of Trail recreation program   30 weeks 3 days ago

    Here we have a group of municipalities existing both geographically and socio-economically side-by-side. We’ve developed such strong collective approaches to providing a number of important services including; sewage treatment, parks and recreation, public transit and police and fire protection.  Anyone new to the area might not even be aware of the municipal boundaries.

    The local debates between communities continue to embrace a user-pay method for cost sharing our strongly integrated services. This user pay approach for public services is not sustainable for long. For example; why can’t someone stop paying school taxes after their kids graduate?

    There will always be challenges when looking for fairer methods of paying for shared services. As well, the definition of fair can be drastically different, depending on your age or where you live. The topic of a potential district municipality or amalagamation creeps back into the small town talk.

    There are strong arguments in favour of amalgamation:

    ·         more effective government;

    ·         lower per capita service costs;

    ·         fairer cost sharing;

    ·         elimination of the “free rider” problem;

    ·         the local identity and interests aren’t lost in a larger regional district system; and

    ·         more equitable access to resources; such as, an industrial tax base.

    There are also strong arguments made against amalgamation:

    ·         communities can have joint service agreements;

    ·         the regional district system can overcome the “free-rider” problem if key services are provided on a regional basis;

    ·         smaller community councils can appear to be more accessible to their citizens and have stronger local identities; and

    ·         smaller communities are better able to match the interests of local residents, their willingness to pay and the services provided.

    The potential loss of the strong local identity and willingness to only pay for local services always rears its head when the amalgamation topic comes up. Our communities are very strongly integrated together. The local identities shouldn’t go missing if the legal boundaries are quickly or even gradually removed. We just need a sustainable plan we can all use to remain both together and diverse. Local government restructuring could play that vital role by contributing to a prosperous economy and healthy society.

    References: Managing Changes to Local Government Structure in British Columbia: A Review and Program Guide. October 2000
  • Second area community opts out of Trail recreation program   30 weeks 3 days ago

    The problem that Trail doesn't get is that it is in effect "taxing" other municipalities without any representation.  The recreation facilities of Trail are run by Trail.  If Trail thinks they are regional facilities and require regional funding, then it stands to reason it should be run by a regional board of directors.  However we do not currently have regional recreation.  Either we all go it alone and are each responsible for funding and implementing our own facilities and programs, or we do it as a region for the region.  Trail dictating what will be offered and how much other municipalities should contribute is not the way to go about it, it ends up being taxation without representation.  That's just a non-starter in a democratic society.

    And it fails to address the elephant in the room which is Teck and other large regional employers who disproportionately fall into Trail's property tax area.  If Trail wants to split expenditures on regional facilities, wouldn't they also want to share revenue from regional employers and businesses?  I didn't think so.

    Maybe it's time to think about amalgamating into one large city?  This might reduce some of the political problems that exists between our neighbouring communities.  I've been opposed in the past, but it would certainly have some benefits, not the least of which would be reduced administrative costs (at least, in theory).

  • CONTEST: March 2014 -- Up to $200 from Your Dollar Store with More   30 weeks 5 days ago

    I'm not normally a fan of shopping, but for this I'd cheerfully make an exception!